Cameroon - Economic development
The government has initiated several efforts to further reduce its role in the economy and to promote private sector development during the 1990s and early 2000s, including reforms in taxation, tariffs, labor, and trade. Price controls were lifted in 1994 with the exception of pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, and goods and services produced by public monopolies. The government marketing board for coffee and cocoa was restructured and most restrictions on marketing and exporting were eliminated. During 1996, the government took bids from private companies for the privatization of the state-owned rubber company, shipping company, and railroad.
A prominent feature in Cameroon's economic development strategy was the development of an Industrial Free Zone (IFZ), which covers the entire country. Manufacturing and service industries authorized to operate under the program pay no duties on imported inputs, require no licenses, and are exempt from customs control. An IFZ firm must produce goods or services that are 80% export-bound and which are not environmentally destructive.
Multilateral aid from international financial institutions and UN organizations totaled $606 million in 1996. France agreed to loan $55 million in 1999 while the Paris Club agreed to reduce debt by 50% and reschedule payments through 2000. Total external debt in 2000 was $10.9 billion. Cameroon had a three-year $133.7 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved in December 2000 that was due to expire in December 2003. The country reached its decision point under the IMF/World Bank's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative in October 2000, qualifying for some $2 billion in debt relief. The ongoing construction of the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline in 2003 resulted in growth in the service sector. Economic development remained fragile, however, in part due to a decline in oil output. The government needs to focus on revenue collection, and target spending to key poverty-reduction policies such as health, education, and basic infrastructure.